Northern France, Tuesday:
In 1940, my father was four, and a refugee, fleeing the Germans and their armies.
In the back of the cart, my uncles and father looked up at the sky and listened to each brother call; softly they spoke of the dunes, the marsh and of the perils of the road.
It had been three days since they had looked up and seen Stukas. They had looked like they had, flying, arms stretched out and above the See grass; each dropping a single bomb on the farm, between the pasture and the pond, showering the lillies with lead, thermite and rust .
Just then, they might have felt their fate, between their fingers and their thumbs; but only when they slept could they see their hands grasp the blows and the bombs and hurl them back forward, and further from the house.
Slowly, inching their way forward, they could see better, and further; over the tiles, over the cows, over the farms; but a hand on their arms pulled hard, snatching them back and inside the safety of the stones and the barn.
And then it was slow, dark and cold, but not until a distant thud cloaked the silent farm again that it came; and with it, that puff of summer air whistled soft under the shuttered doors, and with it, all of a spider’s dust, and the vapors, the ambers and the coals.
Mother had run to the kitchen to grab a couple pots: three tomatoes, yeast, water and some yellow Gouda. She wanted to leave before the house burned and to the ground, torched by their hands and those Germans. And the black soot fouling the wheat, the barley and the beets.
They cut the dogs loose and lashed them one last time, filled the bedroom chests, blankets and tablecoths, with sweaters, boots, woolens, socks; attached the breastcollars and the reins and whipped the ox towards the reeds and the swamps.
And, upon the marsh’s edge, the beast and its breath soon were left, the meat shared, and in, deeper they went…
Into these morasses my father fled, stopping only to stuff a few frog’s eggs and his farm boy frowns, into the half torn pockets, of his apron and his pants.
To be continued…….